January 28, 2023
You are here:  Home  >  Columns  >  Current Article

Caruso’s Miramar hotel revival gets OK to begin construction


Alex Kacik

Alex Kacik

The controversial multimillion-dollar revival of the Miramar Hotel and Resort in Montecito is moving forward after the Montecito Water District allowed developer Rick Caruso to increase the size of the project’s water meters.

The MWD initially denied the newest iteration of the long-debated Miramar project because of the district’s severe water shortage. The issue at hand was the district’s Ordinance 92, which prohibits applications for new water service and increasing the size of existing water meters.

Caruso appealed the ruling and, upon further review, the MWD determined that the request did not conflict with the ordinance because it would not increase the project’s water allocation of 45 acre-feet per year. Caruso will pay for the larger meters so the water system would have the capacity to douse a fire.

Los Angeles-based Caruso Affiliated has teamed up with Hong Kong-based luxury hotel operator Rosewood Hotels and Resorts to revitalize the long defunct beachside property at 1555 S. Jameson Lane. Rosewood has no financial stake in the $185 million project, which Caruso is financing through a construction loan and the company’s own equity.

A 15-year bed tax rebate previously held up the project. The initially-approved-but-later-discarded rebate would’ve kicked up to 70 percent of the development’s bed tax back to Caruso Affiliated.

But since the hospitality development market has improved, the incentive program was no longer needed, Caruso’s team said.

Spread over almost 16 acres of prime real estate, the Miramar project is expected to have 170 rooms, down from a proposed 186.

The bigger project would’ve brought in $1.7 million in property tax, $1.5 million in sales tax and $450,000 in bed taxes a year. The county currently collects $568,000 a year in property taxes on the site. The downsized Miramar project cleared the Montecito Board of Architectural Review in late January.

Caruso Affiliated expects to break ground in April, start construction by summer and open the resort in 2018.

Chase Bar and Grill gets new owner

Chase Bar and Grill in downtown Santa Barbara has changed ownership.

Jackie Mathis recently purchased the historic restaurant from George Merino for an undisclosed price.

Mathis is a Camarillo resident who served in the Air Force, where he managed food and beverage operations. Merino was looking to spend more time with his family and Mathis wanted to try his hand in the restaurant business. The timing was right, said Mathis, adding that buying an established business mitigated some of the risk.

Goleta-based Community West Bank worked with the nonprofit Cal Coastal, a loan provider and guarantor, to facilitate the change in ownership for the restaurant that has served Santa Barbara since 1979.

Vita Explorer travel store closing

Vita Explorer is closing its travel gear store at 12 W. Anapamu St. on March 1. Founder and CEO Greg Bellowe opened the store to gain exposure and revenue for his travel app that recently launched. Bellowe is closing the store to concentrate on his app that aims to make traveling more efficient and environmentally friendly by calculating carbon emissions.

Vita Explorer occupies two spaces totaling about 2,500 square feet. Half of the space has been leased by the electronic repair store DropSmashFix, which is moving from its former 3020 De La Vina St. location, landlord Charles Ealand said.

Snowboard, skateboard and clothing retailer Arbor Collective at 14 W. Anapamu St. is also closing at the end of March, Ealand said.

Massive Santa Maria development approved

One of the largest developments in Santa Maria’s history was recently approved by the Santa Maria Planning Commission.

The Enos Ranch development near Betteravia Road and Highway 101 would relocate a Costco and add a Lowe’s Hardware, restaurants, retail locations, offices and apartments. The commercial space would total 517,500 square feet on 58 acres.

The Santa Maria City Council will review San Luis Obispo-based developer NKT Commercial’s project in March.

• Contact Alex Kacik at akacik@pacbiztimes.com.